ESPN sells majority stake in X Games to private equity firm

ESPN is selling a majority stake in X Games, the event that helped bring extreme sports like snowboarding and Moto-X racing into the mainstream.

The Walt Disney-owned sports media company announced Wednesday that MSP Sports Capital, a private equity firm, will become a majority shareholder in the property, which was founded in 1995. ESPN will retain a minority stake and expand its contract to televise X Games events over cable.

New York-based MSP Sports Capital will handle the day-to-day operations of X Games and plans to expand its presence on streaming platforms where younger consumers have been migrating to watch videos. X Games will no longer appear on ESPN+, the direct-to-consumer streaming service.

The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Chloe King shows off her medal at X Games Aspen in 2021.

Chloe King shows off her medal at X Game Aspen in 2021.

(Phil Ellsworth for ESPN)

The sale of the niche property indicates ESPN’s focus on major sports leagues and events that continue to attract large live TV audiences, such as the NFL, NBA and NHL.

It also reflects how sports with small but rabid fanbases are likely to move to streaming, and that’s how MSP hopes to build X Games.

Earlier this year, ESPN inked a new deal with Major League Soccer, which signed an exclusive streaming deal with Apple TV, taking most of the league’s games off traditional television.

“MSP Sports Capital looks forward to the future of X Games and to being the new custodians of such an important part of sports history and its reshaped future,” said Jeff Moorad, founder and CEO of MSP Sports Capital, in a statement.

X Games was founded by ESPN to provide a television platform for events such as snowboarding, Moto X, BMX freestyle and skateboarding, which grew in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s and attracted younger audiences than traditional sports.

The next edition of the biannual X Games will be held in Aspen, Colorado in January 2023 and will be aired on ESPN and ABC. The summer edition, which took place in Southern California last year, is usually presented in July.

According to MSP, Steven Flisler will be the new CEO of X Games. Flisler was recently vice president of original content at Twitch, Amazon’s streaming service aimed at gamers.

Flisler also served twice as executive producer on Twitch Rivals, a live gaming competition presented on the service.

While the X Games brand was created and nurtured by ESPN, the company believes MSP is better suited to lead the property into the digital future.

“We are proud of what we have created with our employees and the athletes over nearly 30 years of world-class X Games events and content,” ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “We now look forward to an exciting next chapter with MSP Sports Capital, which has a proven track record in esports and a dynamic vision for the continued growth and advancement of the industry-leading action sports brand.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2022-10-26/espn-sells-its-majority-interest-in-the-x-games-to-private-equity-firm ESPN sells majority stake in X Games to private equity firm

Emma Bowman

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